Viking is extending its reach on rivers in North America with its first custom-built vessel despite the current shutdown of operations due to coronavirus.

The company is to deploy new ship Viking Mississippi from August 2022 between New Orleans and St Paul.

The 386-passenger ship is being purpose-built for the Mississippi with five decks including a plunge pool.

The move honours a commitment Viking chairman Torstein Hagen made to past passengers to launch a Mississippi venture by early April.

Scheduled ports of call cover seven US states – Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse) and Minnesota (Red Wing, St Paul).

Itineraries will be between eight and 15 days in duration.

Hagen said: “At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river.

“We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we got our start 23 years ago – first on the rivers of Russia and then in Europe.

“Since then, many people have come to appreciate the unique exploration that comes with river cruising, but currently there are very few options to do so on American rivers.

“Our guests are curious travellers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. No other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”

The latest development follows the January unveiling of Viking Adventures with 378-passenger expedition ship, Viking Octantis, launching in January 2022 on voyages to Antarctica and then North America’s Great Lakes.

A second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022, sailing to Antarctica and the Arctic.